Cell Broadcast is intended to provide the public with early warning of emergencies such as natural disasters or rampages. However, the warning system apparently did not function smoothly during the rampage in a Jehovah’s Witness church in Hamburg on March 9, 2023. Thus, Telefónica users received no warning.

Amok alert did not reach Telefónica users

On March 9, 2023, Philipp F. went on a rampage in a Jehovah’s Witness church, killing a total of seven people and, following the act, himself. Experience shows that such rampages are very obscure in the first few minutes. So also last week in Hamburg. As Spiegel reports, police initially assumed there were two perpetrators due to erroneous information from the public. Officials responded quickly and were prompted to issue a general warning to the public via cell broadcast. However, the debut of the technology, which was launched on Feb. 23, 2023, made it clear that the system is far from bug-free.

Finally, the warning with the content “Danger due to life-threatening situation” did not reach all smartphone users in the affected district of Alsterdorf. Indeed, those who use the Telefónica network did not receive the warning message. The company itself has now confirmed the incident and apologized for the outage. Telefónica, however, does not explain why this happened. In its report, Der Spiegel also states that the responsible Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance states that the company is currently still in the “transition to the effective operation of Cell Broadcast”. Accordingly, “necessary fine-tuning” still needs to be done.

Germany is late

While authorities in this country are still in the “transition to effective operation,” the technology has been in use in other countries for several years in some cases. The flood disaster in the Ahr Valley in 2021 made it clear that Cell Broadcast is also important in Germany. After all, the automated warnings could have saved many lives back then. In addition to the network operator, it is also the cell phone model that affects whether Cell Broadcast works or not. You can find out which smartphones are compatible with the technology on the website of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance.